Question: How do you get politicians to pay attention to issues that matter to women?
Answer: Get them elected -- or defeated.
A month from now, voters in two states will go to the polls to elect a governor. In Virginia, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is facing Democrat Terry McAuliffe; and in New Jersey, Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono is running against Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Both campaigns know they can't win without strong support from women.
According to the National Journal:
In New Jersey and Virginia -- the two states with gubernatorial elections this year -- women made up more than half of the 2009 turnout (52 percent in Virginia and 53 percent in New Jersey), ensuring an intense competition for their votes in 2013. These battles will be closely watched as the national Republican Party seeks to boost its appeal to women and to lay a positive foundation for the 2014 midterm elections.
If the Republicans sweep the 2013 contests, you'll be reading blog posts here and seeing pundits on TV saying that the GOP and the Tea Party have gained valuable momentum for 2014. That's why the financiers of the Republican war on women are doubling down in Virginia and New Jersey today.
As I wrote in Politico back in June,
The anti-abortion rights group that calls itself the Susan B. Anthony List has announced plans to make this year's statewide elections in Virginia a "template" for rolling out national strategies in 2014. It plans to spend $1.5 million to elect Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli governor and political gadfly E.W. Jackson lieutenant governor.
Would Susan B. Anthony agree with Cuccinelli, who frequently attacks Planned Parenthood, charging that they have "an open willingness to participate in human trafficking?" Or that the "homosexual agenda ... brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul?"
Would Susan B. Anthony stand by Jackson, who called Planned Parenthood "more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was?"
I know about Susan B. Anthony. Susan B. Anthony is a hero of mine. This List is no Susan B. Anthony.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the race is between a tireless champion for women's rights, Barbara Buono, and Chris Christie, the first anti-choice governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade
Chris Christie cut $7.5 million in funding for family planning service, and used his veto pen on marriage equality legislation, equal pay laws and a minimum wage increase while signing off on a record $1.57 billion in corporate tax cuts.
Like Barbara Buono, Terry McAuliffe is providing a clear contrast to a candidate with a record of attacks on women's rights.
A New Republic article headlined "Ken Cuccinelli's Record on Women's Issues Is As Bad As Ever" says:
Cuccinelli does not support a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. He does not see the need for the state to fund Planned Parenthood -- which provides services as wide-ranging as HIV testing, prenatal care, and adoption referrals for thousands of women living in the Commonwealth.
He has supported legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to provide emergency contraception if it violates their conscience, and feels employers should be able to dictate whether the health insurance plans they offer cover contraception. He pushed legislation that would have banned third-trimester abortions in Virginia, even in emergencies that endangered the life of the mother.
Four years ago, he had the opportunity to help amend Virginia law in a way that would make sex with minors a more serious offense; he opted instead to defend the statute lawmakers were trying to replace, an unconstitutional state ban on sodomy. He is silent on whether he supports equal pay legislation.
Cuccinelli demanded that Virginia institute a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound law, which has rightly been characterized as state-sponsored rape, is a zealous proponent of TRAP laws designed to shutter abortion clinics, and even supported a law that would have criminalized later-term abortions including those necessary to save a pregnant woman's life.
Ken Cuccinelli was one of only three state attorneys general to refuse to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. His relentless focus on restricting women's health care caused the Washington Post to call him "the most overtly partisan Attorney General in Virginia's history."
Elections matter in this country for a wide range of reasons. They codify our values and priorities as a society and help determine our future. They put the breaks on destructive policies and fuel the progress of urgently needed solutions.
My message to women in Virginia and New Jersey is that these elections are doubly important, because not only will they set the path that these two states will follow, but they will also deliver a verdict on the politics of division and sexism that Republicans think is a winning formula for 2014, 2016 and beyond.
Your vote is your voice. Use it!